Monday, April 5, 2010

Health Care and You - A Student's Perspective

(Tonight is the big night for the Duke Blue Devils, so I thought of sharing my favorite Dukie's thoughts on Healthcare Reform, uncut and unedited)


Change. Yes we can. All those chanters supporting President Barack Obama’s campaign proved they really could make some changes, at least with respect to health care.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law by Obama this past Tuesday. The administration was so excited it entirely forgot to strap on Vice President Joe Biden’s muzzle, and the result was an expletive-laced congratulations unbecoming of a sitting vice president (unless your name happens to be Dick Cheney).

Whether the law stands or falls will be determined in the next few months in our courthouses, but until then, what can we expect from such a monumental bill?

The first and perhaps most significant impact will be witnessed by millions on cable television. The text of the act is full of ways to assess how the various new programs are working, but the most immediate test will be broadcast pre-recorded for us all to see. Starting July 1, a 10 percent excise tax will be levied on indoor tanning services. And MTV must be salivating, because this tax just added a whole new ripple to the second season of the “Jersey Shore.”

What will DJ Pauly D and Mike “The Situation” do now that their GTL (gym, tan, laundry) regimen is under fire? Will the men have to work harder at their day jobs to make up the costs and spend less time partying? Will the stress carry over into the home, with even more drama this season than before?

According to extensive Twitter research, shooting for this upcoming season is only in its earliest stages. Will MTV try to squeeze in a whole summer of fun before the doomsday date of July 1, or will we all play witness to the utter chaos the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will unleash onto the beaches of Miami?

MTV played this game well by hedging their bets. Not only will the “Jersey Shore” cast be challenged, but the act opens new possibilities for the cast of “16 and Pregnant.” Sections 10211-10213 of the act provide new services for pregnant women and teenagers. Will the president save the day for a budding prom queen needing to find affordable daycare for her newborn daughter? Could this be the moment when the show transforms from a teen pregnancy deterrent into its unwitting advocate? This could translate into a cultural sea change: Did Congress just provide incentives for high school and college women to have babies? Only time, and MTV, will tell.

But certainly not all college students will admit to watching such shows. Still, this act has quite a bit in store for them too. For computer scientists, the act encourages greater use of electronic health records and other data storage. Congress and the Obama administration have almost unequivocally decided that the future of the doctor’s office lies in digitization.

For medical and health scientists, the bill offers grants galore to study human ailments and assess current treatment mechanisms. Section 4305, for example, encourages further research into the pain treatment. For economists and public policy analysts, sections 3013-3015 and 4301-4302 offer grants to analyze national data on medical assessments and health disparities, and then formulate policy proposals to better the new system. Look no further for a thesis topic!

The greatest benefits, however, accrue to future medical professionals. Section 5101 creates the National Health Care Workforce Commission, charged with helping medical, nursing and medical ancillary staff students finance their professional education. The same section also proposes a loan repayment program to encourage greater medical access in low-income and high minority population areas. Sections 5202-5210 offer further loan repayment programs and workforce retention mechanisms. Sections 5301-5315 establish greater incentives to lure doctors into specific medical fields.

The last of these sections includes a national plan to train more doctors through direct programming at qualified institutions. By the time all of the act’s programs go into effect, we may become a nation of healers.

No matter what seat you hold in the academic world, be it the nice study chair in the library or the couch in front of the television, this act has just rocked your world. And to think that the test for health care policy’s efficacy, for the guiding vision of our nation’s moral and fiscal future, might just lie in the hands of the one they call Snooki.

Elad Gross is a Trinity senior. His column runs every other Friday. This article appeared first in the Duke Chronicle on March 26 2010

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